Failing Forward: The Success Of Failure

Hundreds, perhaps thousands of businesses fail each day worldwide. A dominant group in this statistics are small and medium scale businesses.  Quite often here, the structures are weak, business processes do not necessarily exist and if at all they do, they are not cast in stone and   are too flexible. Management system is rather informal and documentation is low.  Histories are forgotten.  Someone also said, that small and medium scale businesses are often ‘easy come’, so ‘easy go’ too.  Entry regulations are fewer, not all the cash in the world is required to start, so it can look like an all comers thing, if you know what I mean!

But then, even businesses which seem to have all the right things still sometimes fail.  Projected revenues not coming as expected. Stated and expected production capacity did not take into account machine down times! Unexpected competitive pressures taking the wind off the business’ sail. Changes in technology which makes nonsense of investment in subsisting technology. Increased production costs. What the business thought was the core of their organisation is not quite it and they need to deal more with logistics of distribution and the attendant pressures there from, etc.

I have had my fair share of failures too.  I certainly have, still do. I just procured something that cost an arm and a leg, only to discover that I did not buy smart.  That is a failing!  It is the accumulated many failures that makes the big one and sinks a business entity.  The thing about failing is that we let it take so much out of us. Sometimes we deny that it is happening, we pull, we claw, we push, we run, we twist and turn, and then the sinking realisation that it isn’t working!

 The bills are not being paid! Suppliers are insisting on pay before service, we defaulted on our payment obligation three months ago! One after the other, the good hands are leaving.  Credits have dried up. The bills are piling. The centre no longer holds and then the sinking realisation that we cannot hold this anymore!   

I have read the title above before and it can be so distant when the failure is some else’s.  When we are in the thick of it, we are sort of partially deaf.  We ruminate over and over on what we think went wrong. What about the good things?  Why and several whys.

I hear failure is a maturing process, I believe it.  We have to use past failings to ensure future successes.  Really sit back and ask the serious questions.  Trace things back and identify the pit falls.  Ask more questions and consult more.  Detach emotions from hard business issues. Cut the risk and cut the losses faster.  Be more firm and learn to say ‘no’ when that has to be said. Look out for your weak points and address them. 

The past is a good reference and not meant to be a mental torture that holds us back.  It comes back to you and sometimes we think people laugh at us, but there are far more people looking out to help than you think, so ask for help early!  Buy better and smarter! Negotiate further and deeper, there could still be some concessions to gain.  Look for more collaborative partnership. Use the resources available more. 

The world is indeed a global village so get it where it’s cheaper and better.  Look out for the pulse of the economy.  Find out where technology is taking us to.  Innovate!  Innovation is not only the hard technical things, you know! Innovate new business processes, new service delivery system and methods of getting things done. Passion is good, but when we have to invest and tie so much to it, then that passion must have real commercial value. 

Failure can be good! I hear it leaves us more introspective and retrospective.  It certainly humbles us!  Helps to moderate our aggression and plan better.  It takes away the feeling of invincibility. It helps us to understand, and like my friend said we get to know that, ‘Things are not always the way they seem to be’.  This too, I believe.

Have you read ‘Failing Forward’ by John Maxwell? You bet!!! Have you ever failed? What’s your magic formula! I need it!!!

Akin-Longe, Business consultant and Managing Director of T&D Presss Ltd, Port Harcourt.

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